Lighthouse - Discovering and Following Our Passion


My family used to live in a small apartment in a rundown building, in a neighborhood where followed a 2-hour heavy rain is my mother placing our precious old TV, small fridge, squeaky fan, on the bed, because the flooding would start and the entire house would become a shallow pond. As I child, I was thrilled by the pond. I felt like a gold-fish. I liked to dip my toes and fingers in the water, plashing out little droplets (only secretly, because my mother forbid that, only years after I understood why: if I were really an aquatic animal, I would develop fish scale cancer and die in that dirty pond)

One summer night, I was five, playing with the stuffed bunny on the bed, again surrounded by water. I mumbled these words, nodding and swinging my head like how grandfather read poem:

“It’s pouring cats and dogs

Day after day, night after night

The water keeps coming up

Making all furniture wet

My dad is on business trip

Only mom and I at home

Mom going around the house

The water makes her feet hurt

I feel so bad for my mom

Just want to call my dad home

But he is too far away

To listen to my voice now.”

( "Trời mưa nhưtrút nước

Suốt mấy ngày mấyđêm

Nước cứ lên cứ lên

Tràn vào nhàướt hết

Bố thìđi công tác

Chỉ có mẹ và tôi

Mẹđi ra, đi vào

Bị nước ăn toét chân

Tôi thương mẹ tôi quá

Muốn gọi bố Dũng về

Nhưng bốở xa quá

Chẳng ngheđược lời tôi.” )

My mother’s whole face widened. The morning after, she told my poet-grandfather of my struck of genius, and that I must have picked it up from him. He was exhilarated. During the following few days, my mother made me re-read this poem to almost all the family members, neighbors, customers at her drug store, maybe even strangers on the street that exchanged a random word with her.

My grandfather, who was always excited about all of my silly inventions, arranged a poet reading performance at his old-people-poet-club. I was too young to know of nervousness or stage fright. So I stood there in front of 30 old poets, on a wide stage, in a pair of red shoes and an overly flowery dress handmade by my mother, tiny, chubby, reaching for the big microphone, uttering each word, swinging my head left and right like how all poets do.



Remember the scene at the beginning of “The Lion King” when Rafiki - the shaman baboon – picked baby Simba up, walked slowly to the point of Pride Rock, and held him up for the entire animal kingdom to view, and all animals bowed before him, with a crescendo in the background music “The Circle of Life”?

That’s how I felt when the reading was done and the applause started.

Childhood was blissful because we didn't often whisper to in our ears that “Dude, get real! They do so just because you are 5 years old and you looked and sounded funny.”

That was among very few moments that I could recall from my childhood so vividly, in slow motion. The feeling of being recognized, perhaps more than that, of “self-actualization” – the powerful urge I learnt only 15 years later in a business class

Imagine being free from your own self, as a timid sea turtle'd lived inside its shell all its life, now escaped, tiptoeing naked on the sand, like Ariel The Little Mermaid first time on her bare feet, something she both badly wanted and doubted about, to join a world she’d always longed for. And found out that she could actually walk around on human legs, and it was even fun! And right there, you finally tasted the flavor of being alive.

Congratulations! Only it is a one way street.

I think once we tasted that - the flavor of being alive by doing thing that we were born to do. Once we are lucky enough to find that light, either we never settle for anything less and sail to it like a ship on the dark stormy ocean heading to the lighthouse; or our ship sinks, we start killing ourselves, not the fancy going-to-the-restroom-and-blow-my-brain-out type, but more slowly, intimately, inside kind of kill.



For years, I’d ignored the lighthouse, for fear of the world’s humiliation, and worse, indifference toward my soft voice; for fear of my own inadequacy - an aspiring writer who studied Finance; for fear of the disappointment in my parents’ eyes.

It took me many years to start following the lighthouse. It was not easy. It will never be easy. Choosing to be ourselves is the hardest choice of all.

Many of my friends, with a surprise look in their eyes, asked me: “Why becoming a writer?”

I answered with a smile “Because writing is my passion.” I think that is the most legitimate reason in the world.

What about you?

Have you found your lighthouse? 

If you haven't, are you still searching?

If you have, are you following the light? 

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Photo Credit: Jan Maklak